Mixing regular imagery with dreamlike, soft-core footage, “Nejishiki: Wind-Up Type” is a live-action adaptation of a classic manga that’s initially intriguing but gradually disappears into its own obscurities. Story about a manga artist who goes on a “Saragossa Manuscript”–like dream odyssey will leave most non-Japanese viewers baffled. Sole marketing point is presence of indie icon Tadanobu Asano, charismatic lead of such pics as “Labyrinth of Dreams” and “Shark Skin Man and Peach Hip Girl.”
Tsube (Asano), who relates his thoughts in v.o., is evicted from his apartment, breaks up with his g.f., Kuniko (Miki Fujitani), and finally tries suicide. When he wakes up in the hospital, his strange journey, fraught with images of love, sex and death, begins — to increasingly surreal effect. Though the 1998 film closely follows the original, Asano is miscast as the artist, looking more like a vacant rock star who’s lost his gig than the strong, questing hero of Yoshiharu Tsuge’s cult manga. The women he encounters bring more personality to the movie, including pert Tsugumi as a cheeky waitress in a rural inn. Veteran journeyman Teruo Ishii, who’s made over 80 movies, directs functionally.